Suffolk Law was the first in Massachusetts to establish a free legal clinic for victims of domestic violence. Thirty years later the project continues, giving students the chance to begin to understand the complexities of partner violence.

“For a lot of women, physical violence is only one form of abuse, and often not the most debilitating,” says Christine Butler, who began the program in the early 1980’s. She notes that emotional abuse, for instance, can limit a person’s ability to change her life and escape an abusive partner.

Range of Venues

The one-semester internship assigns students to internships in district, probate, or family courts; a district attorney’s or shelter-based office; or a legal services program. Placements have included:

  • District Courts (Chelsea, East Boston, Dedham, Wrentham)
  • Suffolk Probate & Family Court
  • Norfolk County District Attorney’s Victim Witness Advocates Office, Quincy
  • Norfolk probate and family courts, Canton
  • The Relocation Project (Greater Boston Legal Services)
  • Casa Myrna Vasquez

Intern Tasks

  • Interns are expected to work one full day a week.
  • They may interview clients, assist at protection-order hearings, advise on pressing criminal charges, or work with a family or immigration lawyer.
  • A half-day Saturday preparation class is required before the internship begins.
  • Students meet regularly with the program director, and attend the weekly course, Battered Women’s Advocacy Program.


Preference is given to students in their last year and to students who speak a language relevant to the clients being served.

Applications must be filed as part of the clinical application process in late February/early March for the fall term and October for the spring term.

The program usually keeps enrollment to about eight students.

  • One semester
  • 4 credits per semester (grade pass/fail)
  • Contact: Christine Butler, Practitioner in Residence